Sunday, 25 July 2021

Olympic Workouts 2020

Tokyo Skytree

 

Back in August ‘16, during the Rio Olympics, I decided I’d tailor my gym sessions to whatever movements I could do and still watch the sports on the gym’s screens. I managed to hit a few personal bests, mostly on cardio- the machines with TV facilities. The cross trainers, bikes and treadmills all have their own screens with TV feeds. There are also a range of TVs on the walls.

The Tokyo 2020 Olympics are currently under way. We're currently waaaay down the table with 2 medals. I’m going to do the same thing I did 5 years ago between now and the end of the Paralympics, 5th September- hammer the movements that still allow me to keep one eye on the games. 

In terms of food- I’m going to eat clean where possible, but my birthday is at the end of July, and a few other birthdays will pop up here and there. There are going to be breaks. But I’ll behave myself in the supermarket. I’m currently 88.4kg, about the heaviest I’ve ever been. I’m aiming for 79.9.

Saturday, 24 July 2021

Porridge: hunger buster


 

I’ve spent the last month having porridge for breakfast. The oat-based food stuff is cheap, efficient (takes up the space of a cereal box but provides about 20 times as many meals) and staves off hunger ‘til lunch, something cereal- I’m increasingly finding- does not. This can be particularly distracting if you’re on certain medications, as I am. Mirtazapine gives you a rabid, insatiable hunger.


I started on 5th June, then updated the following week, the 12th. I decided to continue for the whole month.


My weight is pretty much the same, around 88kg. Hunger hasn’t been so much an issue in the past month, although I’m still probably overeating. Making porridge is a little more time consuming in the morning, making it and eating it, and it’s incredibly dull food which needs spicing up with fruit and suchlike, but it’s effective in seeing you through ‘til lunch. If you’re going to mix fruit in, put it in cold at the end of the cooking. The sugar can scald at high temperatures.


Oats also suit cold smoothies, mixed with banana and milk. You might also want to add other fruit like blueberries, strawberries, or savoury additions like peanut butter. Oats will thicken the mixture and fill you for longer, but as it’s cold, give it time for the oats to absorb some milk before drinking.


At the gym: I’ve started recording dumbbell press, like bench press but with two separate dumbbells. This requires some control that a bar would otherwise give you- raising and lowering them in synchrony is an extra challenge, hence only going from 2X 28kg to 30kg. Extra-wide chin-ups- with palms facing each other about a metre apart- went from 7 reps to 9. Everything else, I got close, but not close enough.


I’ll continue with porridge and see if I can bring my weight down.

Monday, 19 July 2021

Lockdown Reading: Take 10. Results

 


Well, it’s 19th July and England’s COVID restrictions have been removed. COVID cases, hospitalisations and deaths are all on the rise…  So Johnson has arbitrarily gone ahead with unlocking the country. Not even 36 million people, out of 66 million in the country, are fully vaccinated. The clubs opened at 00:01 last night, and a flood of 18-25-year-olds- many of whom would be still waiting for their first or second dose of a vaccine- pumped through their doors. However- newsflash- this lax law has, at the time of writing, been reversed, and proof of vaccination is mandatory.


This is a necessity. Yes, all the vulnerable groups are vaccinated. But the vaccines are only 93% effective, so out of a thousand people, if you introduce someone who is COVID positive, a handful of vaccinated people will still contract the virus. Some will still get sick. This is the science. The science- virology, if we’re being specific- that Johnson and his cronies have repeatedly ignored, which has led to 128 thousand deaths.


Either way, back in May I said I would update with the books I’ve read.  They were:

 


 

Adjustment Day


Chuck Palahniuk predicts (kinda) the 6th January attacks on Capitol Hill with his 2018 novel, Adjustment Day. The US edges towards a huge war, and the country’s college-age kids look likely to be sent off to die. This backfires on lawmakers when the youth retaliate. They’ve been updating a website, a new, darker form of Social Media, allowing people to vote on who gets killed- a kind of reverse popularity test, reminiscent of the trending topics on Black Mirror’s Hated in the Nation (in which a swarm of mechanised bees attacked whomever trended with a certain hashtag).

 

The teens strike a pre-emptive blow, murdering thousands of political figures and dumping their bodies in vast pits.


The attack- known as Adjustment Day- marks a new, confusing era that Palahniuk himself hasn’t properly thought out. Half way into the book the idea seems exhausted, but the kids- now living in a dystopian Lord-of-the-Flies scenario- start to turn on each other as the States of America become disunited and society becomes segregated into ethnicity and sexual orientation (which knowingly contradicts itself: people normally fit more than one demographic).


NATO is notably- and inexplicably- absent as the new, disunited states fall into disrepair and key characters off each other for breaking rules they help to create (I wonder if Dominic Cummings has read any Palahniuk?), culminating in a weirdly abrupt ending. Entertaining, but confusing.


The Invention of Sound


Movie sound recordist Mitzi Ives has a secret. She’s a go-to girl for movie producers everywhere who need horror sounds. What no-one knows, though, is that those screams are the sounds of real, innocent victims, an obsession she inherited from her murderous father. Meanwhile, Foster Gates, private detective, is searching for his lost daughter. He’s about to stumble headlong into Mitzi’s dark world.


Chuck Palahniuk’s latest book is a short, fast-paced, twisty yarn, leading us through the world of horror movies and the sound industry- shady enough, without one of their key recordists (a weirdly analogue-recording one) being a serial killer.


After a few books perhaps hitting bum notes (Adjustment Day being one of them), The Invention of Sound is likely to strike a chord with his fans.


Tell-All


Chuck Palahniuk’s 11th Novel, released in 2010, was the missing piece in my Palahniuk bookshelf. Tell-all, seemingly set in the roaring forties in Hollywood, follows Hazie Coogan, Personal Assistant to Katherine ‘Miss Kathie’ Kenton, a bulimic, man-eating Elizabeth Taylor-type movie star. As PA, Coogan’s main role seems to be to bat off the advances of various would-be suitors. She’s basically a golden-age cock-block. When charmer Webster Carlton shows up with a weirdly prophetic tell-all memoir, Coogan has to save Kenton from heartbreak- and death.


This, Palahniuk’s shortest novel, is also his most confusing. There are a lot of 40s-era movie references that even I don’t know, and I was a big-time movie nut in my teens. Some I think were B-rate movie stars, some fictional names. Similarly confusing is the plot- it isn’t always clear what’s actually happening and what’s just being retold from the pages of Carlton’s memoirs (which Carlton keeps rewriting). Short, dense and vague. A low point in Palahniuk’s bibliography, but don’t let that put you off his work.


Consider This: Moments in my Writing Life After Which Everything was Different


Last year, Chuck Palahniuk finally gave in and, after his peers and fans repeatedly asked him to, created a guide to writing. Consider This is part autobiography, part advice book. Drawing on nearly 60 years of experience, the Fight Club author put together his life learnings from years in the publishing industry, and his life before this.


Way back in 2013 I met Palahniuk at the signing for Doomed. I asked him about the relevance of a Journalism degree (one of which the author has from way back). He responded with a series of cautionary tales that he’d heard from other people- in workplaces, at dinners, etc. He couldn’t have retold these stories, he explained, without that journalism training. Many of these fables- the blood-soaked veterinary graduation, the mid-meal cancer diagnosis, and more- they’re retold in this book. At the time, my sketchy Teeline abilities- not as refine as they are now- couldn’t quite get all the details down, but I managed pretty well, it seems.


Embedded in and around the stories are golden nuggets of writing advice, the dos and don’ts of storytelling, and of being in a position to get the inspiration for those stories: the observation, the mind-tricks. If you’re going to take advice from any living writer, make it Palahniuk. A fascinating read.


I am now, 21 years after first reading Fight Club, up to date with Palahniuk’s books for the first time. The pandemic was good for something…


The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding


If Arnold Schwarzenegger hadn’t written this, who would have done? Who better than the Austrian who came to The States aged 21 and won Mr Olympia 7 times?


A thorough, detailed guide to everything bodybuilding-related, The New Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding is the most informative book on the subject I’ve ever come across. It’s a heavy, impressive-looking book, although the excess of white space makes it look more generous than it is. Every element of bodybuilding is covered: from choosing a gym through to keeping your head in a bodybuilding contest, and the journey in between.


I had a few issues with the book. I’d have put the section on nutrition right at the start. What you put in your stomach ultimately affects every other aspect of bodybuilding, and is arguably the most important. It’s also the first part of the process of improving health, something every bodybuilder aims to do. I would also have added a short section on getting proper sleep, without which no fitness regimen will have the desired effect.


Nitpicking aside, whether you want to compete professionally or mix in some weight training to help with a sport, or just improve general fitness, this book will advise you on how to do it.


To wrap up… I finished this last book today. I can see there being another lockdown reading project when the rules are reversed again, when it transpires that the majority of COVID spreaders were unvaccinated, and they’ve passed it on to vaccinated people, a small handful of whom will still get sick (although not as many in previous waves) and batshit anti-vaxxers will spout off as if this is their proof that ‘vaccines don’t work,’ although, as mentioned, scientists have said from the start that the vaccines wouldn’t be foolproof. Depressingly predictable.


What about the gym? Under a month ago I mentioned I was aiming to get down to 80kg. The gym has been open throughout this portion of the pandemic, and I’ve tapped away at personal bests. Bicep chinups- hands together, palms facing face- went from 10 to 12. Quad extension went from 70kg to 80kg, the machine’s top weight. I’ve started recording extra-wide chin-ups, using outward protruding handles so that my palms face each other, about a metre’s width apart. This isolates I think the latissimus dorsi – the lats - just below the armpit, and makes for a particularly hard chin-up. I went from 3 to 9. Aside from that, I’ve made steady progress on things like running and dips, encroaching PBs but not quite beating them. Also, I was at 87.54kg, around the same weight I was at last month. Oh well.


Will there be a part 11? Will Johnson reverse and lock us down again? I genuinely don’t know. It wouldn’t surprise me. Why they haven’t just waited until the rollout is complete is beyond me. Whatever. Point is, I read some great books.

Saturday, 10 July 2021

Herb-Stuffed Trout

 

Zen you slash through the skin 

Give the ze belly a slice 

Zen you rub some salt in 

'Cos zat makes it taste nice 

 - Rene Auberjonois, The Little Mermaid  

Another Roasting Tin recipe from Rukmini Iyer, this time with a couple of whole fish. It’s time to get brutal with a paring knife, not unlike the aforementioned Disney chef. 

Prep time was supposed to be 15 mins; it for some reason took me an hour. I think a clean kitchen to begin with is a prerequisite, something I was lacking when I started. 

In contrast to the movie, there’s no explanation in the book on how to properly gut a fish. I had to summon my inner Rene. Also, a word of advice: try not to split too heavily the plastic bag the fish came in if you’re going to use it to store all the trout guts after your recent evisceration. Otherwise you’ll have fish guts all over your floor. Maybe just use a bowl instead. I learned, so you don’t have to. 

Result: a very flavoursome fish, packed with spices, onions and sliced lemon, with flesh falling straight off the bone. The sweet potato base was undercooked, though- perhaps I should have sliced it thinner, or left the oven heating for longer or something. Onions and the fish, though, were bang on.

Saturday, 3 July 2021

Roasted Cod from The Roasting Tin

My sister bought me The Roasting Tin: Simple One Dish Dinners, a cookbook with which you can create a whole meal in one oven-ready tin. Rukmini Iyer lays out straightforward baking recipes that are easy on the brain and the waistline. 

First recipe up: Crispy Olive and Pine Nut Crusted Cod with Roasted Red Onions and Cherry Tomatoes. 

I matched the book’s suggestion of 10 minutes prep time and 15 minutes cook time, something waaaaay shorter than, say, The Hairy Dieters cookbook which I’ve been using for a few years. Most of their recipes took me hours, and don’t even give you estimates cooking / prep times listed. 

The Roasting Tin, on the other hand, is great for when you arrive home after a gym session, which itself is after work, and you’re famished and slightly dizzy with starvation. You need something simple, quick, tasty and nutritious. 

This recipe fits the bill. I made a few adjustments: I’ve no idea what tapenade is, so used olive oil, nor have I heard of panko breadcrumbs, so slammed some Tesco pre-sliced brown into the blender and used the results. Flavoursome, healthy and time-efficient. Worth a go. 

 

Monday, 28 June 2021

Get fit for lockdown release

Having been on a wedding weekend away recently, I’ve kind of fallen off the clean eating wagon. Time to get back on. No more takeaways or sweet treats. Gym work will consist of bodyweight and endurance exercises. Meanwhile, I’ll continue with this Lockdown Reading project, and I’ll probably review both of these together. At the time of writing the reading post, we were due to come out of lockdown on 21st June. Obviously, and predictably, that didn’t happen. The new date the government has pulled out of thin air: 19th July. Will it happen? Who knows. A few other targets: I want to be under 80kg (currently I’m around 86) I want to get to 100 dips, and get back down to a 30 inch waist. Another factor to tie in: I’m skipping cereal breakfasts in favour of porridge. After a week, I started to see a dip in hunger pangs. Weight is steady. It will drop. I find if I write it, and publish it, I will do it. 19th July. Here we go.

Sunday, 27 June 2021

So Solidly Reading

All I've done is read all week. Minor notable moments: Whoever's manning the Twitter for 00s garage group So Solid Crew (there are 30 members) liked my retweet: 

 

The track in question: 

 

 

Chuck D, of even-older-school hip hop group Public Enemy, didn’t respond. Separately, TV movie critic Mark Cousins liked my retweet.